Dying with Woad – Take 2

Recently a friend and I took an afternoon to play at dying with woad.  I was really hoping to have more success than my last attempt.  I prepped and planned to attempt dying with woad using three different techniques.

Attempt #1

Fresh leave that were fermented in water

Roughly 300gms of fresh leaves were washed and then chopped and placed in a tub with fresh water.  The tub was then set inside a cooler with more fresh water and a fish tank heater to keep it at a temperature of 30C.  After a couple of days soda ash was added to change the ph (to about 9).


It was then left for a week.

Before trying to dye we poured the fermented fate into a dye pot and strained out the goop.  We then warmed it up until it was hot to the touch and not boiling. A swatch of cream wool and a small test skein of yarn were soaked in water and then place in the dye pot.  It was left for an hour.

Taken out and then exposed to air we were disappointed that it didn’t magically turn blue.  Instead it became more of a tan colour.  So at least it had some change in colour, just not the one that we were hoping for.  It’s possible more working with this vat may produce some results.

Woad balls in a urine vat

Overall I think that the big issues we had with this one was that the vat wasn’t prepped far enough in advance, plus my friend and I are horribly impatient. We also forgot to test the ph of the vat.

This was another attempt with the urine vat that I tried last year.  It had been topped up with fresh urine about 2 weeks before our attempt to dye.

The woad balls were crushed, mixed with warm water and then added into the urine vat.  The vat was moved to a dye pot and warmed before we added the test swatch and skein and they were left for an hour.

When taken out, exposed to the air there was no change in colour.  We left it out for a longer air exposure and there was still no change.

Woad powder and Thiourea Dioxide 

We started with fresh water into a dye pot and then added woad powder and once it was brought up to  the temperature we wanted added in the thiourea dioxide.

While we did manage to get blue from this method we were wondering why the dye bath didn’t have the yellow-green colour we had expected.  I have since realized that this was because we didn’t test and then adjust the ph of the pot.


Searching for blue: Experiments with woad fermentation vats and an explanation of the colours through dye analysis







Finally, finished socks!

I started (far to long ago) making a pair of socks for a friend. The project kept getting hijacked by other priorities. This summer I moved and packed away all my projects except for this. It was the only one I was allowed to work on.

Also the they are they largest socks I’ve ever made (for someone who wears a men’s 13/14 shoe).

Done with an Icelandic wool in Mammen stitch.

Beginning My Finnish Apron

The Finnish Iron Age aprons are beautiful pieces of weaving and elaborated decorated  with designs made of small coils of bronze wire.

The aprons were woven to size commonly in 2/2 twill with tubular selvages.

I am making mine out of a piece of cut fabric (but is a wool 2/2 twill).  I didn’t want to do rolled hem edges or blanket stitch to finish the apron.  I wanted something that would have a better and more woven look so I decided to try my hand at tablet woven edges.

I am new to table weaving, even though I’ve wanted to try it for years.  I followed the tutorial instructions here: https://katafalk.wordpress.com/2013/04/04/open-hood-with-card-tablet-woven-edge/

I’ve used her blog a few times for costuming assistance and find the tutorials clear, well documented in the steps and easy to follow.

And so, I was then able to get started and work away on the edging.  The apron and edging are currently ivory.  I will be dyeing it with woad and I hope to have better luck than with my earlier attempt. 



Lehtosalo-Hilander, Pirkko-Liisa. Ancient Finnish Costumes. The Finnish Archaeological Society, Helsinki, Finland. 1984

Vajanto, Krista. Dyes and Dyeing Methods in Late Iron Age Finland. University of Helsinki, Faculty of Arts, Department of Philosophy, History, Culture and Art Studies, Arkeologia, 2016.

Weaving a Finnish Iron Age Mantle

One of the key pieces I’ve been planning for my Finnish Iron Age outfit is the mantle.  A large single piece of cloth woven in 2/2 twill.  They vary some in size but between 90-100cm in width and and woven length of 150-160cm.

Earlier I’ve posted about the test piece that I did so that I could better plan the final project which was also my first attempt at weaving.  I did much of this under the guidance of my friend Crystal who was extremely kind in not only teaching me about weaving but also letting me monopolize her loom for far longer than I had anticipated.

Below are the calculations that she helped me math out.  Something of note, that based on what I had read about the threads per cm on the mantles would work out to a total of 984 warp ends.  This is a number that I don’t think I will ever forget.

weaving calculations

The total time that it took to warp the loom, including winding skeins for the warp, beaming, fixing a whole lot of finicky mistakes (including needing to sort the separation of the warp, my sprang skills came in handy), threading the heddles and then the final threading of the reed took roughly 25 hours.  Threading the heddles alone took 9 hours.

These mis-threadings all needed fixing before being able to go forward.  The yarn is also sold primarily as a knitting yarn and during the beaming found that the wool was very eager to felt.


The process of treading the heddles.


Finally after all of that set up time I was able to get underway with the weaving.  With a handful of wound bobbins off I went.  There were times that things really didn’t work out as I had hoped, I lost track of the 2/2 twill a couple of times and those errors can be seen.  There was also a day when I attempted to work on the mantle while I was not feeling well.  I quickly stepped away from it as I found that it was in general a bad plan to weave while sick.  And while Crystal advised me that it could be cut out I was very worried about damaging the warp and that the felty nature of the wool would make it even more difficult.  So the mistakes remain.

My grand total of weaving time was roughly 15 hours.  I also learnt how to fix some of my errors, got a much better feel of weaving the 2/2 twill pattern (so this error stopped) and battled a number of broken warp threads.

Eventually I was able to take it off the loom.  And discovered one final error.  A misjudgment of how much the tension on the warp while on the loom would stretch the mantle.  I had been doing measurements when tensioned was eased but it wasn’t enough.  So I ended up with a mantle length of 145cm.  I plan to add tablet woven fringes to it and will hopefully be able to compensate a little for the lose of length.  If I also add spiral decoration down the sides of the selvage it will also help mask a few of the errors, particularly of a section of broken warp threads.




Lehtosalo-Hilander, Pirkko-Liisa. Ancient Finnish Costumes. The Finnish Archaeological Society, Helsinki, Finland. 1984

Vajanto, Krista. Dyes and Dyeing Methods in Late Iron Age Finland. University of Helsinki, Faculty of Arts, Department of Philosophy, History, Culture and Art Studies, Arkeologia, 2016.

Norse Wire Weaving – Trichinopoly

Last year in my research into the various silver wire artifacts from Gotland and trying to figure out how they were constructed I finally learnt norse wire weaving or Trichinopoly.  But I only did a few test pieces.  I’ve now, finally made an actual piece of jewelry.

Our Kingdom A&S Faire is coming up in a few weeks and we have a number of prizes that are sponsored, either by individuals or some of the Guilds and or Orders of Ealdormere.  I decided to sponsor a prize for the best entry of Experimental Archeology, bonus points awarded if the entrant proved their own theory to be wrong.


I think that being wrong is a critical step in learning how many of the crafts that were done in the Medieval Era were actually done.  And the skill and devotion to the craft that went into it.  Making mistakes and getting things wrong provide such a valuable learning experience that it should not be discounted as a “failed attempt” because through that failure the individual has learnt what NOT to do.  When they go on to their next attempt they now have more knowledge of the process than they did before.  Building on those mistakes and failures are what eventually lead to getting it right.

And on that note, I need to work on better finishing for the closures of jewelry.



And now for something completely different 

As is clear from reading most of my entries of my A&S research and practices, I focus mostly on things Norse. I have done a few latter period projects for myself but it’s been years.

I took part in the recent round of the Nobelese Largesse exchange for artisans in the SCA. It a secret santa type of thing where based on a set of survey answers you make a gift for another artisan of the Society. This recent round had a theme of heraldry, either personal of from the Kingdom/ group.

The Artisan I was crafting for preferred her heraldry to be used and she has a later period persona. Working class Tudor/Elizabethan.  To add to her wardrobe I decided to do an embroidered coif. A small disclaimer, I haven’t done any projects of medieval embroidery. I picked the brains of some friends who excel at embroidery for tips on how to set things up and materials to use.

I bought a pattern for the embroidery design which is based on this coif.


With the plan of turning the birds into winged monkeys from the recipients heraldry. On white linen I did these with a silvery silk thread in split stitch. All other embroidery was done in a blue silk using stem stitch.  For the transfer of the design I used this great stuff call H2O Gone. It cleanly rinses away when all the stitching is done.

I spent well over 100 hours stitching possibly close to 200, I’m not that fast.  Much to the irritation of my cat who was sick of me not paying enough attention to her.

From here, lots of pictures of the progress!


H2O Gone is gone! The lining has been attached and ironed.


Modelled by my unimpressed teenager.

Pleated Front Apron Dress

Years ago I came across references for pleating in the front of an apron dress and underdresses.  Recently I found another article that had wonderful detail on the textile fragment finds from Kestrup, Denmark.  Including more information on a reproduction.

I had acquired at Pennsic this past summer a length of a wool/linen fabric, brown with a faint beige check pattern that was also a fairly light weight.  Perfect for my own attempt at a pleated front apron dress.

The first task to undertake was to do the pleating.  I totally cheated by using the selvage edge of the fabric so that the top of the pleats would have less fabric and a tighter fold when finished.  I measured the width from where the side seam would be to the spot where I would wear a brooch.  I then did the guide stitches on the front until the width reached the space needed to sit between my brooches in the front.  As mentioned in Hilde Thunem’s work, the fragment from Kestrup that the longest pleat was 4.3cm from the top of the fabric, I followed this and my pleats are a length of 5 cm from the top of the fabric.  My pleats are 3mm wide and 4mm deep

And, as with so many of my projects.  Oracle insisted on closely supervising my progress.


I then finished off the dress, sewing all the long seams on the machine and the bottom hem by hand.  Hemming the dress had a bit of a challenge, the pleating adds a great deal of fabric to the front and the extra weight that goes with that so it pulled the front of the dress down as well.  When I attached the straps, they initially turned out to be to long once I wore it for a period of time, the weight of brooches and pleating were pulling down the front.  So I did a quick shortening but simply tying a knot in each of the back straps.  The front loops were not changed.